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2021 Ford Bronco: What's It Like to Live With?

We bought a 2021 Ford Bronco and now we're going to put 20,000 miles on the odometer.

Ford Bronco 2021
Miles DrivenAverage MPG

Latest Highlights (updated 09/12/23)

  • We've hit 25,000 miles!
  • Hand wash only? Say it isn't so (Maintenance section)
  • Using the remote start feature to combat summer heat (Technology)
  • Is it really that loud on the highway? (Comfort)
  • We investigate a ghost in the machine and get our first oil change (Maintenance)

What We Bought And Why

by Brent Romans, Reviews Editor

Our test vehicle: 2021 Ford Bronco First Edition
Base MSRP: $29,995 (including destination)
MSRP as tested: $62,605
What we paid: $62,605

After a two-decade hiatus, the Bronco nameplate is finally back. The new-generation Bronco is aimed right at the heart of America's most popular off-roader, the Jeep Wrangler. Just like the Wrangler, it's available as a two-door or four-door SUV with a removable roof and doors. There are on-road friendly versions as well as totally wild-and-capable versions with big tires and off-road hardware. And how does it stack up against the Wrangler from an ownership standpoint? We just bought one to test for a year in our long-term fleet to find out.

What Did We Get?

Ford is no stranger to a long list of options. Much like Ford's Ranger and F-150, the Bronco is available in a number of different configurations. For the 2021 model year it comes in one of seven trim levels: Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak and First Edition. There are also two engines available: a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a 2.7-liter turbocharged V6.

We wanted the most off-road-capable version of the Bronco that money could buy. We also wanted the upgraded 2.7-liter engine and four doors. So, we opted for the First Edition trim.

The First Edition builds on the off-road-focused Badlands trim. The Badlands has a specially tuned suspension, a front stabilizer bar disconnect function (allows for improved wheel articulation for off-road driving), and a seven-mode version of the terrain management system called G.O.A.T. (for "goes over any type of terrain"). It comes with all the standard equipment such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, adjustable terrain management, LED headlights, interior grab handles and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. From there, there are four option packages to choose from. The Mid, High and Lux packages are up first. They add stuff like dual-zone automatic climate control, a 360-degree parking camera and adaptive cruise control.

Finally, the Sasquatch package tacks on even more off-road goodies in the form of 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, 35-inch mud-terrain tires, electronically locking front and rear differentials, unique fender flares and a shorter final drive ratio. The First Edition includes the Badlands equipment, along with the optional 2.7-liter engine and the contents of the Mid, High, Lux and Sasquatch package options. On top of all that, the First Edition adds special hood and body graphics, a heavy-duty front bumper with a brush guard, heated front seats and power-adjustable front seats. Essentially, it's everything you can get on a Bronco and then some.

Because of chip shortages, hardtop recalls and ordering delays, our Bronco took more than a year to arrive at our local dealer. Thankfully, with the long wait, we were able to get it at MSRP without any additional dealer markup, and that's saying a lot these days. We paid $62,605 plus tax.

Why Did We Get It?

Over the last two decades, we've tested three generations of Jeep Wrangler in our fleet. Years of ownership and tens of thousands of miles behind the wheel have given us great insights into the ownership experience with the Wrangler — on-road comfort, ease of modification, off-road capability and resale value, just to name a few.

We plan on extracting the same kind of data from our time with the Bronco, all while having a bit of fun and taking it off the paved path as often as possible. Can you live with it as a daily driver? Does it have the off-road capability to knock the Wrangler off its pedestal as king of the off-roaders? Only time and over 20,000 miles of driving can tell.

2021 Ford Bronco: Real-World Fuel Economy

The Bronco's fuel economy estimates aren't great. The EPA estimates that the best fuel economy you'll get out of any Bronco is 22 mpg on the highway, and that's with the base 2.3-liter engine. With the upgraded 2.7-liter V6, the one we've got, the EPA estimate is 20 mpg on the highway. Go with the big tires and all the other body cladding that comes with the Sasquatch package, and you're going to be rocking an EPA estimate of 17 mpg combined (17 city/17 highway). There are 10 different powertrain combinations that the EPA rates for the Bronco, and only two get above 20 mpg combined. For comparison, the Jeep Wrangler has 11 powertrain combinations, and only two of those have an estimate below 20 mpg combined. And one of those is the laughably inefficient 6.4-liter V8.

Average lifetime mpg: 16.3
EPA mpg rating: 17 combined (17 city/17 highway)
Best fill mpg: 19.0
Best range (miles): 460.7
Current odometer: 26,909

So how'd you beat the EPA's estimate of 17 mpg?

We've done a few long highway road trips in our Bronco. With a light foot and a gentle attitude, our editors have posted a few overall fillups in the 18-mpg range. Our current high is 19.0 mpg.

And how'd you get more than 350 miles on a single tank of fuel?

Editorial assistant Jake Sundstrom quietly raised the max-range bar in our Bronco. He covered 367.8 miles by way of 20.6 gallons of fuel, resulting in 17.8 mpg. (Interestingly, he seems to have run the tank to nearly empty; Ford says it holds 20.8 gallons.) Then he left for a few days of vacation so we couldn't ask him about the feat in person. Instead, we dug around and found one note left behind for us: "whole lotta highway." Well, there you go.

And what about the rest of the time?

Our lifetime average is around 16 mpg. On one hand, that is pleasingly close to the EPA's estimate. But by modern crossover SUV standards, it's pretty terrible. Our Bronco proudly displays a big middle finger to aerodynamics and frugality.

2021 Ford Bronco: Performance

Do you want to know how the Bronco drives? Can it hold its own off-road? Does the engine have enough guts? These are the sorts of questions you'll find answered in this section.

2021 Ford Bronco

Is the V6 engine worth the extra money versus the four-cylinder?

There are two engine options on the Bronco, both turbocharged. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder is the base engine. The 2.7-liter V6 is optional and available on higher trim levels, like our First Edition. This past weekend, Edmunds' director of content strategy, Josh Sadlier, drove our Bronco for the first time. "I gotta say that I love the turbo V6," he began. "It's the proper pairing for such a beefy SUV. Just as the four-cylinder Mustang has never sounded right to my ears, so too the Bronco needs more than a four to feel correct. Floor it in our Ford and most of its 5,222 pounds seem to melt away, even though its 7.3-second sprint to 60 mph at our test track doesn't seem that special. It's the effortlessness that stands out. A high-riding brick on 35-inch off-road tires isn't supposed to surge forward with such ease. Don't test-drive the V6 unless you're prepared to pay for it because you're not gonna want to go back to the four."

2021 Ford Bronco

How is it off-road?

Here's what Brent Romans, our senior manager of written content, has to say on the subject: "'Overkill' is the first thing that comes to mind. I appreciate that we got the First Edition trim that bundles just about all of the Bronco's trail-busting hardware. But I took it on a mild off-road trail recently and immediately realized that our Bronco had way more capability than needed for my rinky-dink trail. It was as if you met Simone Biles and asked her if she could handle making a run on a child's monkey bar set. It's going to take dedication for our team to fully test out our Bronco's locking front and rear differentials, 12 inches of ground clearance, disconnecting front stabilizer bar, and GOAT driving modes."

How are those stock Goodyear tires? Should I upgrade?

Here's what Mike Schmidt, our senior manager of vehicle testing operations, thinks of them: "March is often the last month of snow in our local Southern California mountains. So we were in luck when the Big Bear forecast called for snow all day Saturday and clear skies on Sunday (the day we had lift tickets). While prepping for the trip my mind wandered to the Bronco's tires.

"These stock Goodyear Territory MTs have hearty tread but they don't have the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) logo I expected to see on the sidewall. 3PMSF is a severe-snow service rating given by tire manufacturers. Basically it means the tires have a little better traction during light-snow acceleration than other all-terrain tires (M+S, AT, MT, etc). 3PMSF is not a dedicated winter or snow tire, though. I ordered tire chains to be overly cautious, knowing that the hotel we booked had a steep driveway and parking lot. I think the Bronco laughed at me when I loaded them in behind the seat.

"Road conditions that afternoon were R2, which means chains are required unless you have 4WD or AWD with snow-tread tires. I left the Bronco in 4A (Auto) and it didn't miss a beat. The only exception was early Sunday morning when I re-parked the car in the aforementioned steep, icy hotel lot. Neither 4A nor 4H were enough. So I shifted to 4L (Low), which easily got me over the 20 feet of slick and into my spot. I never needed those chains. For this trip, I give the Ford's tires an A. But it sounds like a good excuse to do a tire test before we sell this car in a year."

The Bronco is capable in snowy conditions and comfortable, too

Brent Romans, senior manager of written content, got a chance to drive the Bronco in inclement weather:

"I recently took the Bronco from L.A. to Big Bear for a ski trip and had a little play in the snow. Whether it was sleet, snow, rain, or any other sort of inclement weather, the Bronco felt pretty much indomitable. While we used Slippery mode just to be on the safe side, it never felt like the Bronco wanted for traction, and not once did we need to pop on our set of snow chains! The whole weekend made me thankful we had such a competent go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle in our long term fleet. As if that wasn't enough, it handily swallowed four adults and all their gear for the long weekend away. I support two-door Bronco ownership, personally, but the extra storage space behind the second row offered by the four-door has me rethinking that idea. My only grip is a common one: the noise. A flat windshield mixed with removable roof panels and massive mud-terrain tires meant there was no shortage of noises, vibrations, and harshness along the near two-hour trip there (and the one back home). I guess that's why we opted for the First Edition and its upgraded stereo ..."

How does the Bronco drive compared to the Wrangler?

"I'm not the first to say it, but I just want to reiterate how much better the Bronco is to drive than the Wrangler, especially on the highway. The front end doesn't wander around and catch grooves like the Wrangler, which constantly wants to wander into adjacent lanes if you're not careful. Credit to the independent front suspension for calming things down relative to the Jeep. The Bronco's steering just feels tighter and more direct, which helps make the entire thing feel more stable.

"The suspension tuning and giant tires help off-road, but they don't dramatically compromise things on the street. The ride is truck-like but not harsh, and, even after several hours behind the wheel, I was never itching to get out and stretch. The seats are a bit flat but are decently padded." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor

2021 Ford Bronco: Comfort

The Bronco can tear up the dirt, but what about comfort?

How comfortable is it compared to the Wrangler?

The Jeep Wrangler draws the most obvious comparison to our new Bronco. As our vehicle testing technician, Rex Tokeshi-Torres, put it: "I don't know why anyone would choose a Wrangler over the Bronco. Having had quite a bit of time in the Wrangler made me know enough to not really prefer it over anything else. I joke. What I mean to say is that it's purpose-built to go off-road. And that can make it polarizing in every situation outside of that purpose. While the Bronco has similar off-road chops and rugged purpose, it doesn't ride as roughly or have the Wrangler wiggle — that shimmy it can get when the Jeep travels at speed down the highway. The Bronco feels impressively composed at highway speeds and doesn't stray in its lane. In my opinion, the Bronco has the upper hand over the Wrangler."

"I don't love the front seat in the Bronco. The headrest is a surprisingly soft for how thin it looks, and it's far enough back that it's comfortable to lean against. Otherwise, the Bronco seats don't do a great job of supporting my body, especially in the very upright driving position the truck seems to demand. The seats in the F-150 feel like they were designed very thoughtfully to make you comfortable sitting really upright for long periods of time, while the Bronco seats feel like they're from a smaller vehicle where you're meant to sit closer to the floor and more reclined.

"According to my wife, the Bronco's rear seat is soon as you've created a little nest for yourself out of about a half-dozen jackets and sweaters. Otherwise, it's not very pleasant." — Will Kaufman, senior writer

How quiet is it on the highway?

Not very. Here's Senior Reviews Editor Travis Langness on the subject: "My biggest complaint by far is wind noise. Even with the added insulation on the hardtop, it's a small roar of wind at just 70 mph. Take it up to 75 or 80 and you can barely hear yourself think. Even with the stereo at full volume, you can't drown out the wind noise. At some point, I may look into a duct-tape solution for the seals on the top."

Senior Content Strategist Josh Sadlier piled on: "Having lived with the Bronco for about a week now, I'm seriously thinking we should do a hardtop versus soft-top decibel test and see which one is louder. I should add that I still dig this thing and have gotten used to the din, but still, imagine if the hardtop kept the noise at bay. Would the Bronco take more sales away from the Land Rover Defender? I say absolutely. This is an impressive rig, but that wind noise could easily be a deal-breaker for shoppers who value refinement."

"The prodigious wind noise from the hardtop is a real shame because the Bronco is actually quite nice to drive on the road for an off-roader, unlike the Wrangler, which comes standard with constant lane-departure assist thanks to its solid front axle. I would look forward to driving the Bronco on a road trip to Santa Barbara, which happened yesterday, but for that epic wind buffeting, which made it genuinely impossible to make out David Axelrod's interview of Henry Kissinger at 70 mph. Imagine pairing the Bronco's pleasing road manners with a correctly sealed and seated hardtop. I could go for that. But as things stand, it just sounds broken, which really clashes with the relatively refined experience otherwise." — Josh Sadlier

"Some of us have complained about wind and road noise, but I'm going to side with Brent and say that I don't think it's actually all that bad. It's all relative, but it's certainly no worse than the Wrangler and better than some convertibles. While I wouldn't call it quiet, I also wasn't shouting to speak to a passenger or cranking the radio's volume to hear my music." — Reese Counts, vehicle test editor

Editor Brent Romans demonstrates the possible extreme measures one might consider when driving.

That doesn't sound good

Nice pun. Still, Brent Romans argues that Josh and Travis simply need perspective. He writes: "Our Bronco's boisterous nature on the highway doesn't seem any worse to me than that of our old 2018 long-term Jeep Wrangler. And heck, compared to a Mazda Miata, whose auditory assault is as mentally wearing as a 2-year-old with a temper tantrum, this thing's nearly regal! Considering the Bronco's like-a-brick aerodynamic profile and mondo all-terrain tires, I don't think the wind and road noise are particularly awful."

The acoustics are ... interesting

"The Bronco has odd acoustics. On a long trip, my wife sat behind me in the rear seat so she could be next to our toddler. She had a lot of trouble hearing him over the background noise of the vehicle, but she and I could converse relatively easily. I think the vertical windshield acts as a great reflector, bouncing the sound back. As long as we were both facing forward, we didn't have much trouble carrying on a conversation." — Will Kaufman, senior writer

What's it like to drive?

The biggest difference between our long-term Bronco and any Wrangler is steering. Here's Travis on the subject: "Ever driven a heavy-duty van? Or a truck that's towing a big trailer? The steering gets really light in those scenarios, as it always is in the Wrangler Rubicon. It makes freeway driving stressful and back-road driving a real underwhelming experience. The Bronco simply doesn't have that drawback. It feels stable and confident on the highway, and that's a huge leg up."

"While the Bronco's enormous tires and sophisticated suspension are not at all meant for cruising down Sunset Boulevard, the car felt the most special in this exact scenario. I popped off the front roof panels, cranked the Bang & Olufsen sound system, and leaned in hard on Southern California nostalgia. I imagine most people who are lucky enough to already have their Broncos are doing the same thing.

"In some of LA's more crowded areas, the Bronco is roughly the size of the entire city lane. But other than navigating the sheer size of the thing, the rest of the city driving experience is actually very civil. The ride quality is extremely compliant, our car's hardtop keeps cabin noise down much better than the soft top, and even the seats are surprisingly plush." — Clint Simone, senior editor

What's it like getting in and out of it when you're short?

Senior Director of Written Content Jodi Tourkow, who's all of 5-foot-2, describes what it's like: "B is for B-I-G. That is what you get with the new-generation Bronco's First Edition, one of seven trim options. And, with big-sized vehicles comes some challenges. One problem I had was actually getting into and out of the Bronco. With more than 12 inches of clearance from the ground to the bottom of the door, I have to practically do a box jump to get in the vehicle. What makes it worse is the 'oh, sh*t' handle is situated between the driver's door and steering wheel and not at all helpful for propping yourself up."

She continues: "On the flip side, I felt like a giant when driving. The adjustable power seats in this four-door model made it easy to situate myself to easily see over the steering wheel — a plus, in my opinion. However, the feeling I got towering over other cars on the highway doesn't outweigh my difficulty entering and exiting this Ford Bronco."

We're having trouble keeping air recirculation on

"I remember complaining about how much I could _smell_ everything around me in our old Jeep Wrangler long-termer (although, to be fair, I think that was with the soft-top on). The Bronco, for being a car with a bunch of removable panels, actually does a pretty good job insulating you from the aromas of the long as the recirculation is on. But the recirculation WILL NOT STAY ON. It doesn't matter if you take the climate control out of automatic mode, the vehicle will still deactivate recirc after a totally arbitrary length of time. I swear it turned it off in less than a minute at least once, and let it run for almost ten minutes another time. If there's a way to force the recirc to stay on, I haven't found it.

"This is incredibly irritating to me. When I push that button, I want it to stay pushed. Especially when I'm commuting past acres of cattle and their concomitant waste pools." — Will Kaufman, senior writer

The Bronco is an accomplished, if flawed, SUV

"It has the same amount of charm that the Wrangler does, it's endearing enough in its "Bronco-ness" that you are willing to overlook many of its faults and that's no small accomplishment. The way that it sits, toweringly, with its black accents and blue paint, it does draw you in. I came to very much enjoy its power delivery and commanding driving position, but there are some clear faults as well.

"The interior is awfully noisy at highway speeds. I can't pick out if it's more wind noise, tire noise, or engine noise, because all three seem to have been dialed up to 11. It's nigh impossible to have a phone conversation if you're driving at speed, you resort to yelling in the general direction of the top of the dash to be heard.

"My fiance also had a lot of trouble climbing into it. The grab handles are kind of weirdly placed so it's not all that natural to hoist yourself up into the cabin, and she's not even that short (5'4). I know (Director, Video, Editorial) Chris Paukert put some aftermarket steps on his Bronco, those would be a nice addition to have."

"This is my first time in our Bronco, and I LOVE this thing! It's just so much fun. I think the biggest surprise for me was how comfortable and livable it is, especially compared to a Wrangler. The Bronco feels like a car I could use very easily on a daily basis without any real compromises ... aside from mpg, which is, understandably, not great. The seats are comfy, the ride is surprisingly smooth, and there's a lot less road noise than I expected. Big fan!" Ryan Greger, social media content strategist

2021 Ford Bronco: Interior

This is where we spend most of our time. So we'll poke around inside the Bronco and report back anything that is worth your attention.

Senior writer Will Kaufman calls it like it is: "This trunk sucks. It's not very big; my kid's stroller takes up most of the floor, so there's not much room for, like, groceries. The gate is loooong and the pneumatic arm creates a lot of resistance for opening and closing. It's also hinged on the passenger side (at least on American streets), so it's a much bigger hassle to unload stuff like the kid's stroller when street parking. The weather stripping on the bottom of the window catches on the top of the gate unless the gate is pretty much fully open, so you have to drag the big, long door all the way open to get anything like decent access to the trunk. And, honestly, it sucks that you can't open the window separately. I get that there's a giant spare in the way, but I still wish I had a lower-effort way to access the trunk.

"Look, I can already hear you, sitting there in your Bass Pro Shop camo trucker cap, the ropey muscles of your forearms shifting under your tattoos (a grizzly bear rearing over a compass rose on one arm, a tasteful tribal band on the other) as you prepare to type something along the lines of, 'The gate's too heavy? I once carried a 10-point buck eight miles back to camp. Maybe you need to get in shape and stop complaining about stuff us real Bronco buyers don't care about.' Great, good for you. But getting in and out of the trunk is a hassle that just takes more time and effort than other SUVs, and when you're loading up for that hunting trip and your buddy comes out of his house with the eighth 'one last thing' he forgot, you're going to notice."

His kid, on the other hand, is a big fan: "My kid continues to love the Bronco. He couldn't have been more thrilled to ride in it all the way up to Sacramento and back. A big part of that is what a great view it gives him: In his child seat, he's well up above the window frame and he can look out at all the cars, trucks, cows, buildings, hills, clouds, and literally everything else, and tell us all about it. My wife and I were less thrilled, but then we had to sit in the factory seats the whole way."

Is it car-camper-friendly, or should I plan to pack that tent and air mattress?

Senior Reviews Editor Mark Takahashi snagged the Bronco for an overnight trip to the desert. He stated: "I knew it was going to be chilly and I couldn't find my tent, so I planned on sleeping in the Bronco. It seems like a big adventure-bound SUV like this should be well suited for sleeping in, right? Wrong.

"My first choice would have been to sleep in the cargo area with the second row folded flat, but those seats don't fold flat. There's a sizable step up to the setback from the cargo floor of a few inches. That's enough for me to know I'll wake up a broken man. I thought about laying across the back seat, but I had a section of the rear seats folded to keep some gear out of the elements.

"So I opted for the front passenger seat. It doesn't recline anywhere close to flat, but I managed a couple of hours here and there. It wasn't so much the seating position that kept me up, but my poor temperature predictions. It got cold enough to wake me up, so I ended up going full burrito in my sleeping bag, zipped all the way to my face.

"My recommendation: Get a good overloading roof rack tent."

What's the interior of the Bronco like? Is it useful?

According to our vehicle testing technician, Rex Torres, the Bronco's rear cupholders don't work too well:

"My wife and I recently made a quick trip to visit our nephews in Irvine. While down there, we decided it would be cool for them to take a ride in the Bronco. One of them has a nice-sized 14-ounce water bottle that he always brings with him. (Yes, he LOVES to hydrate. I would too if it was Kool-Aid.)

"During the short drive, we had him put the bottle into the cupholder so he didn't have to hold it in his hands. It didn't look precarious at the time. That changed when a pesky squirrel decided to run out in front of the vehicle about three car lengths ahead. The speed limit in the area was 45 mph so applying the brakes a little harder than normal made his water bottle come out of the cupholder. Thankfully, it was closed. We didn't grind to a halt or anything; we just made sure we slowed down enough to avoid making a squirrel pancake.

"Note to self: I wouldn't store anything in those rear cupholders unless they had a lid."

How does a car seat fit?

"My 2-year-old was an immediate fan of the big blue truck and the wheel on the back. He also really appreciated the view from his car seat, which is a big step up (literally) from his usual view out the back of my sedan. I didn't really love situating the child seat ... the LATCH anchors are wedged between the cushions, and to tighten down the top anchor you have to get into the trunk — and the trunk opening is its own small hassle. But once it was in, the seat felt solidly held in place. The rear doors open wide and aren't long, so it's pretty easy for me to get the kid in and out in a parking lot (I'm 6 foot; shorter parents might have more problems). Best of all, the kid's really happy to ride in it." — Will Kaufman, senior writer and strategist

We're keeping an eye on our roof after spotting something ... concerning

"A piece of the office carpet Ford glued to the underside of our Bronco's roof panels is coming loose. It looks like it wasn't applied perfectly flat at the factory, which is creating a bulge. Also, the driver's side dash grab handle feels a little loose and wiggly--it's got big, obvious torx screws in it, so I tried tightening those, but it seems like they might just be for decoration." — Will Kaufman, senior writer and strategist

2021 Ford Bronco: Technology

Anything from rearview cameras and proximity sensors to shift-on-the-fly 4WD and cruise control will be covered here. And early on in our test we've already noticed some electronic gremlins.

Another electronic false alarm

"I took our Bronco to Big Bear Lake, California, and it was snowing. So I expected the warning light about the Bronco's proximity sensor features not working. That happens any time there is a physical obstruction, which right now is snow and ice. What I didn't expect was a ghost warning about an open hood. It is clearly closed. I haven't touched it. I even got out and double-checked. It's chimed multiple times now. I have to guess the ice or cold temps (19 degrees) are confusing it. This isn't the first time the Bronco gave me a false warning light." — Mike Schmidt, senior manager of vehicle testing operations

Why did the seat-belt warning light just come on?

"This morning I dropped my kids off at school. They climbed out of the car while it idled and were off. As I pulled away from the curb I noticed the rear seat-belt warning lights were on for the seats they just exited. They were completely empty, to be clear. This wasn't a case of an overweight backpack triggering the alert. The light stayed on until I got home 10 minutes later and turned off the car. That was weird." — Mike Schmidt

Blind-spot and cross-traffic alert just stopped working

"While driving home from the office today the Bronco displayed warnings that both the blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts were inactive. The warnings illuminated as I drove on the freeway at a steady state, around an innocent bend in the road, with the sun high in the sky and no cars nearby to speak of. In short, I have no idea why the alerts came on. They continued flashing on the instrument panel for about five minutes, then vanished. I couldn't find them stored anyplace, which is a bummer because I couldn't take a picture while driving down the freeway. So that was strange." — Mike Schmidt

We love remote engine start and we don't care who knows it

"And the award for our Bronco's most overlooked/underrated feature goes to ... remote engine start! Sure, the locking differentials, 35-inch tires, and removable roof and doors get lots of deserved hype. But for daily driving, it's the more prosaic things you'll rely on. Let's say you need to drive your Bronco, and it's parked out on your driveway. (Why the driveway? Because it won't fit in your garage.) It's also been baking in 107-degree summer heat for a few hours. Normally, getting in would be like stepping into an oven. But with remote start, you just push the key fob button and the Bronco fires up and starts conditioning the cabin with sweet, air-conditioned air. Love this. Now, lots of Ford vehicles have remote start, so it's not a Bronco-exclusive. But I still find it to be super convenient." — Brent Romans, senior editor of written content

The upgraded sound system might not be worth it

"I'm going to save you money on your Bronco with this hot tip: If you frequently have rear passengers, skip the upgraded sound system, and just accept that your soundtrack on the road will be noise. The Bronco is really, really noisy on the freeway, so you'd think having the more powerful stereo would be a blessing! Just crank it up so you can actually hear your music! And the stereo will crank up to where you can hear pretty well over the wall of background noise, but...

"The rear speakers can't be in the doors, since the doors come off, so they're stuck to the frame structure right behind your rear passengers' heads. When the volume was turned up even to "moderately audible over the noise," my adult rear passenger found it almost intolerably loud with the nearest speaker basically pointed right at her head." — Will Kaufman, senior writer

We have mixed opinions on the driver aids

"I wish the Bronco's driver aids were better. The adaptive cruise is too aggressive to accelerate, and too conservative about braking. After the first time the adaptive cruise was way too slow to brake, and wound up triggering the automatic emergency braking system, I took over braking duties myself. It's just unnerving, and not well tuned.

"Also, the system deactivates under 5 mph (or at least, that's when I noticed it turning off). It's the 2020s, guys. Figure it out.

"The lane-keep assist feels inconsistent. On a straight road, you get the slightest sense of a ghostly hand just teasing the wheel to keep you in your lane, but there's almost no resistance when you override it, so it's not actually that difficult to drift out of your lane. But then in curves it can feel way, way more aggressive, tugging the vehicle the side." — Will Kaufman, senior writer

"The lane keeping aid in the Bronco is one of the best that I've experienced. It helps you in a way that's not intrusive or annoying. The steering torque applied when it detects a seemingly unintended lane drift is not overwhelming at all. It gives you enough push to keep you in the lane without making it feel like you're about to lose control of the steering wheel, and considering the size of this animal, that is exactly what you want." — Albert Hernandez, editorial assistant

2021 Ford Bronco: Maintenance

This is the first year of the Bronco, so are paying close attention to any mechanical issues or recalls.

Feels like we're always adding wiper fluid

"Either we're sticklers for having clean windshields or the Bronco has a small wiper fluid reservoir. The 'washer fluid level low' light was on before I took it to a road trip for Labor Day weekend. I bought one of those gallon jugs from an auto parts store and used about half of it to top off the Bronco's reservoir. A week later, I'm picking it up from the car wash for a colleague and I notice the light is back on.

"I don't recall seeing any liquid on the ground, so I don't think the reservoir has a leak. But we'll have to keep a close eye on it, just in case." — Ron Montoya, senior editor

Our 20,000-mile service has come and gone

"I took the Ford Bronco in for an oil change on February 22, 2023. The car is over 20K miles and the oil change light had come on. The whole experience was smooth and fast. Called, dropped off same day, and picked up next day. Total cost was $129.95. It included oil replacement, oil filter replacement, tire rotation and brake inspection. In and out!" — Albert Hernandez, editorial assistant

False alarms and our Bronco's first oil change

Senior News Editor Cameron Rogers experienced a suite of on-screen alerts from the Ford Bronco, including a notification that it was time for our first oil change.

"Oh, by the way, the Bronco needs to be serviced," Brent Romans said as he handed me the keys. I had signed the Bronco out for a week, and would have time to take it to my local Ford dealer for the Bronco's first service. Little did I know that a series of driver assistance failures would render my plan undoable.

I had one longish drive scheduled during my time with the vehicle — a roundtrip journey from north Orange County to Palmdale. Shortly after I began said drive, a series of warning lights flashed in the instrument panel. On vehicle startup I was greeted with the now-familiar "Oil Change Required" message, along with a new addition: "Park Brake Fault Service Now." I quickly reengaged the parking brake to see that it worked as intended. Hmmmm.

Later that night, I received two new notices: "Blind Spot System Fault" and "Cross Traffic System Fault." Strangely enough, the blind-spot monitor seemed to be working correctly on the highway when it first triggered. The BSM light illuminated in the mirror when a vehicle was in my blind spot, and there were no false positives or negatives. I didn't have a chance to test the cross-traffic alert system, because I was on the highway when it triggered, and I felt a scientific test under these circumstances would do more harm than good.

Problems with the advanced safety system would need to be tested — possibly at length — during a maintenance visit, and I didn't have enough time to drop it off for diagnosis and repair during my tenure with the vehicle. We'll schedule the oil change and system inspection soon.

By the way, none of those faults appeared again. Truly bizarre.

A trip to Santa Monica Ford took care of the oil change and an inspection revealed no issues on any of the offending sensors. We haven't experienced the problem again, but we'll keep our eye out for the phantom alerts. We've noted similar ghost alerts in the Technology section; so, it appears the Bronco might be a bit on the haunted side.

Enjoy the small things, even if it's just filling the wiper fluid

"It took a mere 7,000 miles for the Bronco to ask us for a refill on windshield wiper fluid. That felt soon ... until considering just how often I've reached for the left-hand stalk to clean off bug guts. And that's not considering any off-roading, or the Bronco's weekend excursion to the snow, which certainly left the windshield in need of fluid.

"The manual (which you can conveniently access through the center digital display on your Bronco) recommends Genuine Ford Motorcraft Windshield Wash with Bitterant (part number ZC-32-B, if you're so inclined). Vertical integration, baby! If you're a big fan of the Blue Oval, knock yourself out. We opted for a jug of concentrate that will allow us to cleanse our windshield even in subzero temperatures. (You can't get a big jug of premixed all-season fluid in California, which is where our Bronco lives.)

"Curious about concentrate because you don't want to lug around a gigantic bottle of premixed crud? It's easy to use, even with our lightly scientific method. The bottle we grabbed recommends 2 ounces of concentrate per gallon of water. So we got a gallon jug of water, removed 2 ounces and replaced them with concentrate. Bingo! You've got your very own washer fluid mix. We were low enough on fluid that the Bronco guzzled it all up. (The tank is on the passenger side — all the way at the edge of the hood, so keep that in mind.)

"As far as maintenance goes, this is about as easy, and inexpensive, as it comes. The concentrate cost us $7.07 including tax." — Jake Sundstrom, editorial assistant

With 4,000 miles on the odometer, the rear door handle stopped working

"The rear door (the back hatch, or the trunk, if you prefer) stopped opening this morning. That really cramped our style, particularly only 4,000 miles into our road test. We took it into a local Ford dealer to look it over, hoping for a quick fix. The service department seemed overrun with customers when we arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, but the drop-off was quick. We left the Bronco and our adviser promised to check in the next day.

"Fewer than 24 hours later, the service writer gave us good news: Our Bronco was ready to go. The cable that attaches to the rear latch was inexplicably loose and tightening it back up did the trick. When we asked how that might've happened, they had no guesses. The Bronco is of course still under warranty, so no charge for the repair or the free dealer car wash." — Travis Langness, senior reviews editor

Planning on getting your Bronco dirty? Here's a note on washing it

"I was perusing the on-screen owner's manual for our Bronco and noticed this statement about washing it: If you have a Sasquatch or soft top package, wash your vehicle by hand, or by using a touchless commercial wash with no mechanical tracks on the floor. Well, the Bronco First Edition likes our automatically comes with the Sasquatch package, so handwashing it is. It also has language about taking care when using a pressure washer on exterior graphics, which our Bronco also has. So, I'm amused that we've got this rough-and-tumble SUV but we've got to treat it like a Ford GT when cleaning it." — Brent Romans, senior manager of written content

Our 20,000-mile service has come and gone

"I took the Ford Bronco in for an oil change on February 22, 2023. The car is over 20K miles and the oil change light had come on. The whole experience was smooth and fast. Called, dropped off same day, and picked up next day. Total cost was $129.95. It included oil replacement, oil filter replacement, tire rotation and brake inspection. In and out!" — Albert Hernandez, editorial assistant

2021 Ford Bronco: Utility

The Bronco is a truckish SUV — so how useful is it?

What do we think of the cargo space?

"On paper, the Bronco's trunk isn't "small." Our 4-door model has around 38 cubic feet total, which is nothing to sneeze at, although it is a cubic foot less than the much, much smaller Honda CR-V. The thing is, the Bronco's cargo volume is significantly vertical. The actual load floor surface area is smaller than a CR-V's, but the trunk is taller. That means stacking your crap up in the back, which may or may not be fine depending on what kind of crap you have to transport. This is another reason why it's so annoying that you can't open the rear glass without first opening the side-swinging trunk door. It would've made my life a lot easier if I on my holiday roadtrip if I could've just opened the glass to grab or deposit smaller items on top of the massive pile of belongings we stacked up in the back. Also, opening the glass first would've made it easier to load and unload without worrying about stuff falling out of the tall pile.

"I really wish I could open the glass first. It's so freakin' useless to have it open separately, but only be able to open it second." — Will Kaufman, senior writer

The Bronco's front doors have impressive side netting

"The netting on the Bronco's front doors don't seem too substantial at first glance, but I was able to fit my 32-ounce water bottle in there without issue. There's an indentation on the door panel that helps keep bottles in place. The bottle never moved or tilted over during a long drive." — Ron Montoya, senior editor

2021 Ford Bronco: Miscellaneous

This is where we put all the questions that don't fit in our previous sections. We may even add a few modifications to the Bronco over time, and this is where we'll catalog those changes.

How hard is it to remove the hardtop?

Editorial assistant Jake Sundstrom has this to say: "Taking the roof off the Bronco is a rite of passage that demands at least an hour of your time (and an hour of a good friend's time, too), some sweat and hopefully no blood. You'll have an easier time with the roof than me if you:

  • Are in better shape than me (not a big ask)
  • Do not live in a second-story apartment
  • Have garage space for the roof once it has been removed

"So, yeah, I took it off eventually. Was it worth it? In my living situation, no, not really. If you have the muscle to lift the back hatch off the Bronco with ease and, more importantly, somewhere to store it, your answer may change. When the work was done, my drive from Los Angeles to San Diego was spectacular ... albeit even noisier than usual, which is an achievement in itself for the Bronco."

Don't let ice build up on the rear fenders

"I noticed something when I had the Bronco in the snow recently. If ice is allowed to accumulate on the fenders, it can be hard to get the rear doors open." — Mike Schmidt, senior manager of vehicle testing operations

How hard is it to take the doors off?

Ford produced a nice series of videos with instructions for removing the Bronco's hardtop and doors, so we used those as a guide. The instructions are simple, and all the tools you need to do it come with the Bronco in a nice branded kit. After watching the videos a few times, the procedure seemed pretty straightforward. Fold the sideview mirrors forward, place the paint-protective rubber on the doors, unbolt two bolts and violà. Then rinse and repeat three more times. Taking all four doors off our Bronco took about 40 minutes (20 minutes per side) and the Ford-supplied storage bags fit over the doors nicely. If you like to have an open-air experience in the summer, the Bronco will be happy to oblige.

Does the Bronco deliver a satisfying, authentic experience?

"Driving the Bronco feels...fake. Everything feels tuned and computer-controlled within an inch of its life: Steering, throttle, brakes, exhaust note. It's a little unsatisfying to get into a Big Tuff Truck and then feel a bit like you're using video game controls. Honestly, if you're lauding the Bronco you definitely shouldn't also complain about EVs being a somehow "less real" experience than ICE cars." - Will Kaufman, senior writer and strategist